Are Filipinos that forgiving or are we simply forgetful?
In our Social Studies (in the 50s in my case), we were taught about the destructive habits or attitudes of the Filipinos—the Manana Habit, Talangka Mentality, Filipino Time, Ningas-kugon, Colonial Mentality, etc. I was too young to care, but being a conscientious pupil, I retained what I learned. Especially the very graphic explanations of the teacher about the “talangka” pulling one another down to clamber to the top of the bucket, and of dried cogon grass bursting into flames and just as quickly dying out.
Over the years, many disappointing experiences with fellow Filipinos would convince me that those bad habits we heard about in elementary school somehow do have basis in fact. In our country’s current socio-political situation, for instance,the Ningas-kugon mentality reigns supreme. Scandalous incidents of national importance would hog the headlines for days or weeks, and then fizzle out even before anything conclusive is reached. Or is it the public’s interest that wanes through time?
Remember the so-called Mamasapano Massacre, when on January 25,2015, 44 SAF police commandos were slain in the botched anti-terror raid in Maguindanao? The nation was shocked over the tragedy, and felt betrayed by the government officials who planned the raid. The public indignation soared when the 44 coffins arrived at the Manila airport and there was no Noynoy to pay respects to them—he was busy attending a car manufacturing event. Headlines and social media comments burned with righteous anger in sympathy for the bereaved—such a cold-hearted president! The bloody incident came to be tagged as “SAF 44.”
On July 14, 2017, it was reported that former president Benigno Aquino III would face criminal trial over Mamasapano tragedy. A statement from the investigating body said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales had ordered Aquino charged with usurpation of authority and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.
January 25, 2019, on the fourth anniversary of SAF 44, families of the fallen troopers called on the Supreme Court on Padre Faura in Manila to seek justice. They called on the authorities to act on the case: “Please notice our pleading because we have been seeking justice for four years now.” Are they joined in their plea by the public? It doesn’t seem so. No sustained reporting from mainstream media; no angry outbursts from netizens. Why? The grass has burned out. Ningas-kugon.
Who remembers the bank cyber-heist that happened in February 2016? It involved Bangladesh Bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) in the Philippines.Reactions to the news smacked of warnings, and not a few bank clients feared for their money. There followed televised hearings (in aid of legislation?), which the man on the street found upsetting if not incredible—for how can something that big happen when Philippine banks are so strict? Even opening an ordinary savings account with one-thousand pesos would require the client to fill up so many papers with personal information. How much more if the new accounts involved millions of US dollars? After the initial furor, the case was forgotten.
Until January 10, 2019, when the RCBC branch ex-manager Maia Santos-Deguito was reported guilty in the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist. The news said Makati Regional Trial court Branch 149 Presiding Judge Cesar Untalan found Deguito guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Again it raised eyebrows, even in banking circles, where “everybody knows a mere branch manager cannot do such things on her own.” Some believe there’s a cover up somewhere, and that Deguito was persuaded to be tied to the whipping post for a huge consolation sum. Whatever, the fire seems to have gone out—the people who were alarmed before continue to use banks to safekeep their money. And those with money to burn go on burning it away in our casinos.
Another half-forgotten scandal: the alleged role of the Bureau of Customs in the shipment from China on May 17, 1017 of illegal drugs worth over six billion pesos. On record as containing “kitchenware”, the container with methamphetamine was reportedly passed through the green lane, escaping the xray scanning—a violation of BoC protocol. The Senate and House hearings invited so many “persons of interest” and disclosed names of companies and individuals (including the president’s son Paolo Duterte) implicated in the shipment, some of them Chinese. Again, the public reaction was one of outrage.
On September 5, 2018, the news said “The government has lost its drug transportation case over the 6.4 billion pesos shabu shipment from China that ended up at a warehouse in Valenzuela City, due to double jeopardy… While Taguba and Tan are detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa jail, Richard Tan, whose Hongfei Logistics company leased the warehouse where the shabu was found, and his other Chinese or Taiwanese co-accused remain at large since the Manila RTC ordered their arrest for the drug importation case.”
Now the case seems buried beneath an avalanche of sensational news items. Should we not be looking deeper into the court decision? Or at least, gather concerned agencies and citizens to ask, for instance, where the confiscated shabu has gone? Are the accused still in the country, or have they forever escaped prosecution through the help of Immigration? We do not want to think ill of our government agencies but circumstances like this make us doubt their sincerity in serving the public.
Ningas-kugon destroys more than grass—it keeps us in ‘stupor. We are quick to say the country is a mess, but are we doing our part to right the wrong being done? These are but a few of the scandalous things that caused us to burst into flames of anger in the recent past. If you will peep into history you will see that there have been many more that aroused our ire in the distant past, hindering our growth as a nation, but which we soon forgot—or forgave. Where is our ningas-kugon mentality leading us to?
One day, about two years ago, we just woke up to find our waters invaded, with artificial islands containing military installations by a bully nation. We were furious—but didn’t stay so for long. Last weekend of March we were told that for the first quarter of 2019 alone, more than 600 “Chinese fishing vessels have been recorded surrounding the sandbars of Pag-asa Island.” That many? We would be naïve to think these vessels are only after our galunggong—which, incidentally, they export back to us. More than just cursing China over its bullying tactics, we should do our homework and intelligently plan to preserve our sovereignty and save our people. We can’t afford to treat serious matters with our ningas-kugon attitude. We must keep the fire burning. Otherwise, Pilipinas might one day wake up to find it is already a province of China. And that’s the truth.